Thursday, November 17, 2016

Weekly Update: 11-17-16 Books and Pondering Escapism

 Is fantasy just
an escape? No. We explore
life as it could be.

So last week the election happened.

It hung over me like a dark cloud. I was doing my unpatriotic best to ignore the whole thing, feeling rather poisoned by the bad atmosphere. But come Wednesday morning, I woke up to the news that the world had changed. Reality TV gave us Donald Trump as a president, and I really don't know what to do with that.

Between that and the slight break in homework, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a while and bury my head in a book. I read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. In it, a vast Library acts as a portal to alternate worlds. Librarian Irene is sent to a steampunk version of Victorian London to retrieve a rare copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, only to find it's already been stolen. Teaming up with an apprentice who is more than he seems and a meddling detective, Irene is soon plunged headlong into danger when an old enemy of the library emerges from the shadows.

The Invisible Library was a fun book to read, though I was a little underwhelmed by the mystery portion of it. I solved it midway through. Like so many books I read, it started to build on some interesting ideas of the notion of chaos, but ended up eschewing the debate for an action climax. This made the book fast-paced and enjoyable, but I felt a little sad that it did not trigger as much deep thought as I would have liked. It was a solid read, and I'd recommend it.

Since I feel pretty helpless about what's happening in my country, I decided to focus on what I could do, namely, write. My earlier fears about failing to make it to 50,000 words have died, so I decided to challenge myself with another goal. I want to write everyday. It seems like a simple thing, but I've never actually done it. So far so good. I haven't missed a day of writing, even if I don't always make it to 1667 words.

On Saturday, Brea Library invited three science fiction and fantasy authors to speak in a panel, as they unveiled their new shelf of Sci-Fi/ Fantasy books. Given my history with the Brea Library and my interest in fantasy, I had to attend, and I dragged three other Pendragons with me. Apparently, I was networking like no tomorrow. Or at least using the opportunity to chat with people and hand out a couple of my bookmarks.

At the panel, we met:

John Joseph Adams, publisher of Lightspeed and editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, an anthology of short stories. He spoke about the process of choosing selections and told us about the Clarion Workshop in San Diego. When I got to speak to him, he introduced me to a couple of veterans of the workshop and we exchanged information.

Kim Vandervort, a professor at Fullerton College and the author of The Song and the Sorceress and The Northern Queen. I was going to buy one of her books, but Rita bought the last copy. Kim spoke what makes female heroines both strong and different from men. She identified three strengths of women heroines: they use words as a weapon and communicate, they can't rely on their physical abilities so they use their brains, and they build networks of support. I really related to those qualities, which I often stick in my own heroines, and I told her as much.

Todd McCaffrey, the son of Anne McCaffrey, who wrote the Pern series and is probably the superstar of the group. He told us about some of his upcoming books and urged writers to enter The Writers of the Future contest and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (for 7th-12th graders). When I spoke to him, I asked him which of the Pern books to start with and he said Dragonflight.

Jill Patterson, a librarian, moderated the panel.

Among the intriguing questions brought up was why science fiction and fantasy are important as genres and why they don't seem to get respect the way normal fiction and mysteries do? The panel expressed the idea that SF/ F is "the genre of tomorrow," that it is not an escape, but a means of exploring ideas and possiblities. And I heartily agree with that. Most of the writers are dreamers and engaging in play, something that more pretentious genres may look down on. I think that play is necessary, though. There is so much that we don't know that if we do not use our imagination, we are limiting ourselves.
Todd McCaffrey said that as time passes, science fiction either becomes fact or fantasy. I leave that quote for my father, a budding science fiction writer, who has been noticing the merging of science fiction and fantasy. There you have it, Dad. A reason your genre and mine look so much alike.

When discussing trends, they spoke about how fantasy has become more international, both that settings are taking on a less Euro-centric sweep and that authors are emerging from other countries. Apparently Atlantis has been popping up a lot as well, which may have to do with Global Warming. They left us with these authors/books as recommendations:
  • Lois Mcmaster Bujold
  • Yoon Han Lee
  • Linda Nagata
  • Ken Liu
  • Red Rising
  • Leviathan

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekly Update: 11-7-16 Monster of Productivity

I fear I have become
A Monster of Productivity.
My skin has hardened into
Scales of armor:
A prison for my soul,
Small and groaning
From the pit of my stomach,
Giving me indigestion.
I fear my hands have sharpened into
Claws to shred soft young skin.
I fear my tongue has become a slab,
My voice a gravelly rumble.
I fear my eyes have become
Deadened to sunlight. I cannot see
A duck fishing on a rippling pond
In autumn. My mind are gears
That crunch and crunch as they
Grind together.

I fear
I have nothing left to fear
But myself.

* * *

Today I had the sudden realization that this week might actually be--comparatively--easy. So easy, that I might be able to spend this morning doing something fun and spontaneous.The revelation shocked me to the core.

Last week, I was busy with three jobs, two projects, and one Nanowrimo. But I wrote up a schedule, calculated my hours, and executed like a 5-Star General. For all my angst and fear of Nanowrimo, I ended up ahead of my word count. (Incidentally, last Friday, I also got a letter saying I got into my Credential Program--so yay for me--student teaching, here I come.)

Having decided that I had some free time, I took a walk this morning and read some poetry by Pablo Neruda. My mind was filled with motion and took quite a bit of coaxing to adapt to stillness and contemplation. I thought about how the plants of So-Cal never seem to change, that the seasons are indistinguishable, that it seems so timeless. And yet, when I went to the park, I could recall the me of yesteryears, angsting about where my life was going.

I haven't felt that sort of angst in a while.

Which is good, I suppose. I feel settled, I have a routine, I'm happy. But I worry that I spend too much time doing and not enough time being. Does that make sense? Take writing, for example. I've developed a considerable set of skills. I can outline, knock out word counts, revise, and edit. But do I actually have anything to say? Have I somehow lost the art in the obsession to master skills?

Maybe what I really want is time to relax. A large chunk of time where I'm not juggling schedules, projects, and expectations, where I can walk and read and have adventures and not worry about the To-Do List waiting for me at home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 2016 Nanowrimo Word Count

The countdown to 50,000 words.

Week 1

Day 1: 2684
Day 2: 4787
Day 3: 6503
Day 4: 9165
Day 5: 12708
Day 6: 14199
Day 7: 17066

Week 2
Day 8: 18381
Day 9: 21076
Day 10: 22076
Day 11: 25134
Day 12: 26059
Day 13: 28610
Day 14: 30572

Week 3
Day 15: 31856
Day 16: 34554
Day 17: 35351
Day 18: 38410
Day 19:
Day 20:
Day 21:

And So it Begins

Weekly Update: 11-1-16 Getting in Touch with My Inner Sea Goat

I'm not a big believer in horoscopes, but they are fun, and I like to read them from time to time, especially when they say nice things about me. My birthday is January 2nd, which makes me a Capricorn, the legendary half-fish, half-goat, half-starchy-vegetable.

According to :

"The Capricorn-born people are the most determined of the entire Zodiac. The most prominent qualities of the Goats, as they are called, are that they are ambitious, conservative, determined, practical and helpful. They make good team leaders and organisers, because of their single-minded focus on their work, sense of responsibility and sincerity. They are perceived by people around them to be workaholics, unemotional and detached. Sometimes their negative qualities – suspicious, resentful, inhibited, pessimistic and stubborn – are seen clearly, but deep inside the Goat is a humble heart. They are soft, and their hard outer shells are meant to guard themselves against the hurt caused by rejection."

So there you have it. A personality, which runs almost completely counter to my Myers-Briggs type of INFP and is somewhat contrary to the typical image of a writer. And yet, I took a fiendish delight in googling "why Capricorns are awesome" and cherry-picking the best quotes to suit me.

So here is "My Top 5 Capricornisms Countdown (Plus a Bonus One)"


I think I can be a good listener and I do get asked for advice from time to time. As for putting people in their place.  Well... (smiles) I don't like to do it, but if I had to, I'd like to think I'd be damn good at it.


I have high expectations for those around me. If someone says they can do something and shows a modicum of commitment, I am there. But whatever I expect of them, it's nothing compared to what I expect of myself. If I can't do it and do it well (if I can't set an example), then I have no right to expect it of anyone else.

If someone I care about or someone I'm looking after (students, etc.) needs help, I will help. I cannot help it. If I perceive a problem and you invite me to fix it, damned if I won't try my hardest to fix it. That's why I can be the best or worse editor: I will put hours into noting and trying to fix every perceived mistake, and so you will get back manuscripts bleeding blue (my choice of pen color). This is great if you want to shore up your weaknesses, but bad if you wanted me to stamp it with my approval and move on. And for all this editing, I expect nothing. Heck, half the time, I don't expect people to even be grateful for it. I expect them to be horrified, angry, and defensive, because no one likes being criticized, even if it's done out of love.

 If you need proof of my need to matter, check out my poem "Ode to All My Murdered Trees" on my website, which is my angst about my writing not making a difference. I work hard, because, in the end, I want to make a difference in the world.


I interpret this to mean be the best version of yourself. It's not about being the best writer or the top student or the number one teacher--although I expect myself to write well, get good grades, and be pretty darned competent at teaching. That's subjective. But I try my best in everything I do, I give it my all, and I do not settle until I'm satisfied. That's part of my perfectionism, and it can have its dark side. But it also pushes me to achieve beyond what I may think I'm capable of. For better or worse, if I care about something, I can't not do my best. That's just how I am.


Hee, hee, hee.  That one made me laugh.

Now Capricorns are apparently analytical, and I, for one, was not content to just enjoy the barrage of compliments I fished out for myself, no, I had to sit and ponder why I spent several hours of my Halloween gazing at these quotes, when heaven knows I should have been calling my parents, cleaning the kitchen, or preparing my notes for Nanowrimo.

 And then, I thought, maybe it's because of Nanowrimo that I suddenly found the need to look up Capricorn traits. After all, I don't care how many times I've done it or how high I've achieved in the past, every time, you attempt to write 50,000 words/ 200 pages in 30 days, it is hard! It is hard when you have literally no other job than writing and it is harder when you are balancing school, subbing, and a social life.

I like learning about my personality and understanding how my brain works, and most of the time I identify with Myers-Briggs type: INFP, the idealist/ healer/ sensitive/ creative/ artist. But then you do a google image search, and you get pictures like this:

I do not want to be a happy little flower, child I want to be a hard-working, high-achieving, so-productive-it's-scary, do-not-get-on-my-bad-side-or-I-will-destroy-you badass MONSTER! In short, I do not want to be seen as awesome because I'm nice and caring, I want to be seen as awesome because I GET STUFF DONE!
 And when I'm already slightly stressed because I've worked as hard as I can last week and barely got everything done, and this week, I will need to work even harder because this is the month where I achieve my goals or crash and burn, I want to see this:

Capricorns: Making the Impossible Look Easy
And be told this:

And this:

And believe this:

In short, I need to shore myself up emotionally, because I've got a long road in front of me and it's going to be bumpy!